The Top 7… Tasteful game heroines

4 – Cate Archer | No One Lives Forever

James Bond is a womanizing, murderous, borderline cartoonish yet beloved super spy. No reason then a woman couldn’t do the same and leap out of planes, fling cheesy one-liners and dress up like espionage is a right cheery fashion show. Cate Archer, from the sadly MIA No One Lives Forever series, fills those shoes quite nicely, mixing sex appeal with genuine ability like no other on this list.

Above: Cate was saving the day when Call of Duty was still stupid 

The game’s a cheeky look at not just spy films but also action games as a whole, leading to piles of industry awards and generous sales to boot. Best of all, if you only look at the screens, with their powerful automatic weapons and bodies flying all around, you’d never know there was a ruthless and alluring woman pulling the trigger.

Most heroic moment: Cate travels the globe, constantly defending freedom and justice from HARM’s nefarious deeds. How noble then for her to save a lowly Ohio trailer park from a tornado-spawning ninja. Always looking out for the little guy, this one.

3 – Zoey | Left 4 Dead

Valve took great care to make each of the game’s survivors look unique, yet indistinguishable from a common citizen. Zoey hits the mark perfectly, dressed as casually as someone you’d ignore on any city street, and with physical attributes to match. At a glance, there’s absolutely nothing remarkable about Zoey in any way, and that’s why she’s one of the most respected heroines in games today. Yes she dual-wields pistols with impressive accuracy, but swing the third-person camera around and most of the time you’ll see a genuine look of horror on her face, not a blank murderous stare.

Above: Zoey and the other survivors are scrappy, not superhuman 

While playing and finishing the game, Zoey’s personality and backstory will shine through without direct exposition or teary-eyed reveals. The more you play, the more interchange you’ll hear between characters, and therefore the more you’ll learn about Zoey’s life before the infection. We almost included Portal’s Chell for the same reason, but at the end of the day, Zoey takes the (delicious and moist) cake.

Most heroic moment: As a multiplayer-focused title, there isn’t much room for overt story or personal heroism. Still, in the game’s brief opening movie, Zoey racks up more saves than her teammates. She’s the first to toss a pipe bomb, clearing the path for her friends. Then she rushes the hunter that’s pounced on Louis. Then she stays behind to keep the Hulk-like tank from catching up.

L4D2’s Rochelle has a lot to live up to.

2 – Alyx Vance | Half-Life 2

No surprise here. Since her debut in Half-Life 2 five years ago, Alyx has become the go-to girl for female leads. She’s everything we’ve mentioned in other entries (resourceful, smart, attractive but not lude), and also has the distinction of being the most “human” of all. Her verbal and physical interactions with Gordon Freeman and the world around you are meant to feel as natural and organic as possible, leading developer Valve to consider her AI programming more like “personality code.”

Above: Alyx with her custom robo-pet, Dog 

This design manifests itself through her hacking skills, intelligent targeting and surprisingly lifelike dialogue, but Valve insists it’s the lack of repetitive, canned actions that keeps Alyx’s presence cliché-free. Naturally, this has led to many gamers perceiving her as something more than a throwaway game character.

“She’s enough of a person that people have developed in their head her personality,” said programmer Robin Walker. “And now they’re trying to evaluate what we build against their opinion of who Alyx is.”

What videogame heroine could possibly stand up to such a universally accepted superstar?

Inevitable objectification: Nude patches. Couldn’t Rule 34 sit this one out?


Top 7


  • ThundaGawd - January 17, 2011 6:50 a.m.

    Agree with the list, but shouldn't Sheva from RE5 be in the honorable mentions as well? (True, the superiorly awesome Jill Valentine is already mentioned, but Sheva knew how to get sh*t done nonetheless) also, Shannah and Rose from Legend of Dragoon should get mentions. Shannah is born as the "moon child" which makes her the key to resurrecting the god of destruction who would then cause the apocalypse. While as Rose is over 10,000 years old, having fought and survived the first war between humans and winglies, then being forced to kill thousands of innocent people in order to hunt down and kill the equally innocent "moon Child" every 400 or so years in order to prevent the apocalypse.
  • MyriamD - January 5, 2011 8:25 p.m.

    If they rebooted the article, I'd want shout outs to the recent Lucy and Rebecca from Assassin's Creed (always dressed modestly, always both compassionate and badass), and actually, you know what? The wholesome nature of games like Harvest Moon makes for a lot of pretty cool girls, too. The whole series should get a "good job" head pat.
  • PatHan-bHai - February 23, 2013 11:22 a.m.

    yep...there are no boobs in Harvest Moon
  • mistervirtue - December 24, 2010 6:19 a.m.

    Sheva from RE5 was totally tasteful ingame.
  • guiarherodrummer1998 - November 28, 2010 3:36 p.m.

    where's Echo Tesla from the newest Guitar Hero?
  • sdmitch16 - August 21, 2010 8:35 p.m.

    Funny they called Samus the most tasteful female in gaming. Another site said before Zero Suit appeared in games, it was just like playing as a guy and had no effect thoughts of women. Then with ZS she was just another vixen. She's esp. sexual in SSBB.
  • Cosmis - August 20, 2010 5:29 p.m.

    I don't think it's a coincidence that so many Valve heroines made this list.
  • mrmorozov987 - July 8, 2010 6:04 p.m.

    Elena and Chell, yes!
  • pandasrock - December 21, 2009 9:11 p.m.

    to be honest i prefer bill then louis then zoey then francis
  • guiarherodrummer1998 - December 16, 2009 2:17 a.m.

    Having a girl as a heroine in a game is a great idea! It attracts men because, well, its simple. Man sees woman and goes "Ooh!" It's basic domestic logic.
  • PinkHairSasuke - December 11, 2009 12:33 a.m.

    Once I clicked on this I was thinking to myself, "Samus better be on here." Then there she is as #1! I agree that she should be #1 on the list.
  • Spritle101 - November 23, 2009 4:03 a.m.

    I agree with Hamsfork at Kotaku; the first one of Faith looks like a Japanese man with a stuffed bra. The wider eyes & larger breasts make the character look significantly more feminine. (I'm a girl, & if I say she looks like a dude, I mean it).
  • MyGameName - November 22, 2009 6:35 a.m.

    Of course, the manual of Metroid refered to Samus as "he".
  • soren7550 - November 21, 2009 2:43 a.m.

    Where the hell is Joanna Dark? She's so much better than everyone else on this list!
  • bugmenot - November 15, 2009 11:30 p.m.

    this list needs more april ryan.
  • allthegoodnameswheretaken - November 14, 2009 9:54 a.m.

    I miss the NOLF games =(
  • usmovers_02 - November 13, 2009 9:17 p.m.

    What about Liara T'soni? She is SO the sexiest alien in Mass Effect and she doesn't even try. All she does is act intelligently and do what she can to do some good in the world. No slutty aliens here.
  • GameManiac - November 13, 2009 3:10 a.m.

    I KNEW it! I knew that Samus was going to be #1 the INSTANT I clicked to see this article! And was there REALL any doubt?
  • galogen - November 12, 2009 8:36 a.m.

    Who is the woman on picture on the right of Lara? I didn't see that game before.
  • pikachu2000 - November 11, 2009 11:44 p.m.

    You know what they all say: Sex Sells. Video games are an escape from reality and having a girl with curves, a chubby appearence, and scars will most defintly not fit the company's bottom line. There is a reason why we don't see too many "real normal" girls in games: They are very boring compare to the sexy ladies dominating the gaming world.

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